Though the race is tightening, the Liberals under Brian Gallant appear on track to form New Brunswick's next government when voters go to the polls on Sept. 22.
The latest numbers put the Liberals in the lead with 45 per cent, against 36 per cent for David Alward's governing Progressive Conservatives. The New Democrats were at 11 per cent, with the Greens in fourth at six per cent.
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The survey was conducted by Corporate Research Associates (CRA) between Sept. 15 and 18, interviewing 489 New Brunswickers via telephone. The margin of error associated with the survey is plus or minus 4.4 per cent, 19 times out of 20.
The Liberals have been polling in the mid-40s for some time, suggesting that the party's support is holding steady — and this despite the problematic interview Gallant recently had with the CBC's Harry Forestell.
But the PCs could be in the midst of making a late-campaign surge. Compared with CRA's previous survey of Aug. 19-31, the party has experienced a seven-point increase. On the question of who would make the best premier, Alward was up five points to 27 per cent (Gallant was still ahead with 32 per cent). Neither Alward nor his party have polled this high since 2012.
This is only the first sign that the Tories may be making a move, however. A poll conducted by Forum Research on Sept. 11, surveying 732 New Brunswickers via interactive voice response, found no such momentum for the party.
The NDP, on the other hand, seems to be sliding. The party was down six points from CRA's previous survey, echoing a smaller drop recorded by Forum on Sept. 11. In addition, leader Dominic Cardy was down four points to just seven per cent on who would make the best premier. Cardy has never polled so low, and the party has not put up such poor numbers in more than three years.
On track for a Liberal majority
If the Progressive Conservatives can continue to make some gains over the final weekend of the campaign, they certainly do have a chance at re-election. But the gap is a large one to overcome.
Taking into account the potential for the normal kind of polling error and late shifts that have occurred in other provinces, the current projection for the Liberals stands at between 43 and 49 per cent support, with the Tories between 34 and 39 per cent. The NDP would be well behind, at between eight and 15 per cent support.
These numbers are likely to deliver the Liberals a majority government of between 25 and 35 seats, with the Tories taking between 13 and 24 seats. The New Democrats have an outside chance of winning a single seat.
But the race now appears close enough that the outcome is uncertain. Polling during the campaign has been infrequent, making it more difficult to determine whether any trends are truly taking hold. The margin of error among decided voters in the CRA poll, for instance, is plus or minus 5.4 per cent, 19 times out of 20. That is just enough to erase the nine-point gap the pollster has estimated to exist between the two parties.
These final days of the campaign, then, could prove decisive.
Nevertheless, the Liberals under Gallant have held the lead in the polls for well over a year and surveys suggest Alward is one of the most unpopular provincial leaders in the country. Based on the current state of the race, Gallant should become New Brunswick's next premier — if his party can hold on for a few more days.
In its poll, CRA asked the following questions: “A provincial election will be held on Sept. 22. For which party do you intend to vote in the New Brunswick provincial election?” and “Which one of the following individuals would you most prefer as premier of New Brunswick?” In its poll, Forum asked: “Which party are you most likely to vote for in the provincial election on Sept. 22?” The reported margin of error of Forum's survey was plus or minus four per cent, 19 times out of 20.
ThreeHundredEight.com's vote projection model aggregates all publicly released polls, weighing them by sample size, date and the polling firm's accuracy record. Upper and lower ranges are based on how polls have performed in other recent elections. The seat projection model makes individual projections for all ridings in the province, based on the provincial shifts in support since the 2010 election and taking into account other factors such as incumbency. Projections are subject to the margins of error of the opinion polls included in the model, as well as the unpredictable nature of politics at the riding level. You can read the full methodology here.